“If you want to repair the world, you have to first repair yourself,” said Camryn Manheim at the 19th annual YWCA In the Company of Women luncheon last week to a crowd of 1,500 women and men in Hartford, Connecticut.
Sandwiched between NCAA victories for both UConn Huskies women’s and men’s basketball teams, Camryn shared jokingly, “This is the first day that I was not offended to be called husky.”
She then went on to read a poem she had written connecting her life and story to that of YWCA Hartford Region and the important work the organization does in the community and its mission of eliminating racism and empowering women.
Camryn’s speech was magical and the audience was enraptured. Her presentation was the perfect example of how to make the audience the hero, while still maintaining your authenticity and authority on stage as the speaker.
The fight of self-acceptance
Camryn’s keynote speech was entitled Living Life Generously. She embodied generosity in words and deeds, and even in her physical presence.
She shared her personal story of the twenty year battle she fought to accept herself and her body.
In the 19th century, large sized women were considered attractive. It was status symbol to be big- a sign of wealth and abundance. In the 20th and 21st centuries, big is considered bad, a weakness, a flaw. Big women are negatively portrayed in the media, type-cast in roles, and live on the fringe of public acceptance.
Camryn gave us the facts that the average size of an adult woman in the USA is 5’4″ in height and 144 lbs. in weight. She wears a size 12-14. Yet the fashion industry insists on showing models that are tall, thin, and wearing size zero. She pointed out how absurd it is for the fashion industry to create size 0, as if it is a goal for women to disappear. “If Barbie was a real person, she’d have to walk on all fours given her body proportions,” Camryn predicted.
Breaking the mold
“I always felt like a misfit, and to get this award from my peers is a huge victory,” she said in her 1988 Emmy Award speech for best supporting actress in The Practice. She gave an impassioned and bold acceptance speech in which she triumphantly shared her award and the recognition with other large women who have also felt like misfits. Holding up her trophy with a proud and loud voice she proclaimed, “THIS is for all the fat girls!”
Change perceptions of women
“What would happen if women woke up one day and said, “I love my body,” Camryn asked the audience. How many billion dollar industries would need to scramble for a new approach? What would become of Jenny Craig weight loss system? Cosmopolitan magazine?
Indeed if women were more accepting and loving of their bodies – as they are right now- entire industries would be disrupted including the beauty industry, the fashion industry, magazine industry, and Hollywood itself.
As a capitalist society, we feed off people’s self-hatred. We commercially profit by the mechanics of self-rejection and self-loafing. We pass on these unhealthy thoughts, habits and ideals to our children, who pretty soon will start disliking themselves too.
How can we change this vicious cycle?
The self-acceptance movement
Camryn invited us to join her in the self-acceptance movement. She encouraged us to role model the kind of thoughts, beliefs and actions that communicate self-love, not self-rejection. Once applied to self, you can begin to apply to others. You can begin to see the beauty, talent and magnificence in other people. No matter than size, shape or exterior appearance.
“Refuse to accept the norm,” Camryn proclaimed. “You don’t have to carry that torture.”
She encouraged us to:
- Anchor yourself in what’s real.
- Be confident and bold. Take a risk on yourself. Ask for what you want.
- Decide for yourself. Don’t let others do your thinking.
- Empower and encourage each other.
- Be of service to others. Consider the plight of others. Pay it forward one person at a time.
- Change perceptions of women online and offline.
- Don’t be victim – be a victor!
“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” ― Lucille Ball
Put these ideas into Action
This week, accept yourself just as you are – right here, right now.
Don’t step on a scale. Don’t look in the mirror. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
Refuse to accept other people’s ideals of what beauty and success look like. Don’t purchase a magazine or visit web sites or watch movies or TV shows that make you feel inadequate. It’s all marketing. It’s designed to make you feel bad about yourself, so that you’ll spend lots of money to try to emulate an ideal that does not exist in nature. Don’t support this kind of self-image terrorism.
Stop yourself from having critical thoughts or making negative comments about yourself or others. When you look at other people, try to look past the exterior packaging and see their inner beauty, character and potential.
If you can do that for others, then you can do that for yourself. See your own magnificence. It exists and is waiting for you to notice it.
Put more energy into practicing self-acceptance and self-love, instead of self-loathing and insecurity.
Love what you have and who you are. It is more than enough. In fact, it’s all that you need to make the world around us a better place.